Please Welcome Zee Monodee To NN. It is great to have you with us today Zee.
Hello everyone! Firstly, I’d like to say thanks to Tabitha for having me here today. I love the interviews on Nocturnal Nights and to be featured here is an honor and pleasure indeed!
Why do you write romance?
The real question to me should be, why not write romance? This is a genre with tremendous scope, as sub-genres of romance veer between different and distinct worlds, like contemporary to paranormal and everything in between and out. What’s the limit in the romance genre?
Romance has this feel-good factor – it uplifts, brings a smile to your face, contentment to your heart, hope that the world just might be a better place after all.
This is what I wanted to bring to the world – in my preferred niche of writing, namely Mauritian culture-based fiction, there was too much focus on the drabness of reality, the tedium and the misery. Very literary-type, and all I kept thinking was, life is full of hope so why doesn’t anyone pause to showcase that? Romance sounded like the perfect medium, since I wanted my stories to show what the life of a woman of such culture is like today, how she lives in a drab reality yes, but how she also wants and finds love along her journey to fulfillment.
Are you aware of any themes that run through your stories? If so, what are they?
I write with a strong focus on my heroine. My stories are as much women’s fiction as they’re romances. These women I write about are always on a fence, a wall, a ledge. One misstep and they’d fall. I enjoy writing about how my heroines find their equilibrium on this tiny space high up in the air. In a way, this theme reflects a lot of my own struggle to find my balance. I come from a traditionalist culture and religion, yet I grew up in a world where barriers that contained cultures and lifestyles were tumbling down rapidly. It wasn’t easy to find my place on my own wall, and I know countless other women out there feel the same too. Every woman, just like every heroine, has her own world and conflicts – she looks for a way to find her fulfillment.
I also write about the strong men my heroines will fall in love with. They’re strong, principled, honorable men. Sometimes they’re dangerous, sometimes they’re bad boys hiding big hearts. Yet they’re also ‘real’ men, the kind we could all meet in everyday life. I try to strike a good balance between the dreamy scopes of fiction and the anchor of reality.
What would you like readers to take away from your stories?
Hope. Contentment. A smile. A feel-good buzz and glow that takes them through their day as if on a cloud. I want to show them my world of culture and traditions, take them on a trip to my beautiful island, Mauritius, make them discover a new facet of how people live and exist out there, take them behind-the-scenes of a character’s life.
If anything else, I want them to read my stories and just have a good time in the hectic world of today.
What inspires your stories?
People. There is no better inspiration. Every person has a story to tell – it’s the writer’s job to relate that story to readers. People in culture seem even more facetted, because they are ‘different’, and conveying and explaining this difference is a very good way to find ideas for stories. You can take anyone – be it someone you know personally, someone you bump into while grocery shopping, someone who catches your eye on a crowded bus – and spin a game of ‘what if’ from a small aspect of this person. From this, other elements add to the picture like strokes of color, and with words as your brush, you paint a picture that translates as a story.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Clearly, actually. Strange as it may sound, my interest in spinning stories came when I received my first Barbie for my 8th birthday. I was like, what’s your story, Barbie? Playing with my friends back in the day, we’d have these make-believe doll parties and everyone had such conventional stories for their dolls. I kept going, no way dolls have such a boring, mundane life – for example, how did Barbie and Ken meet? An aunt brought the proposal for Barbie on behalf of Ken’s family (back then, that’s really how we thought love happened!). I was always the one going, what if the proposal came for Barbie’s sister but Ken saw Barbie and fell head over heels in love and they elope and have a secret marriage? (Very Indian Bollywood movie type, yeah. I was after all, 8!)
Then I started to watch soaps with my mother (Dynasty!) and here was this whole fictional world where Barbie and Ken could evolve.
I was actually creating fan fiction before I even knew the word, and then my dad got me a library card and I discovered Barbara Cartland. It was a revelation, as in, people actually write stories like the ones I think of. From then on, I penned story-telling essays on a weekly basis in my school assignments. The romance bug had bitten, and I’m happy to say I never found a cure for it!
What is your writing schedule?
This clearly depends on when in the year we are talking about – school days and vacation time. School runs January to October in Mauritius, with breaks in April, July and November-December. I have a 7-year-old son and an 11-year-old stepson. When they’re home, you can barely hear yourself think let alone string two words together on a WIP!
So I try to streamline my writing during school days. I will usually have 2-3 days of the week screened out for writing, when I will write between 10 am to 2 pm. I always work from an outline, so I know what my chapters are supposed to feature and when to start/stop. On a good roll, I can get a chapter down every 2 days. I try not to work in the afternoon, when the kids are home and need to have homework checked or just want to hang out, and when I usually have to cook (my worst nightmare!). The evenings I try to reserve for my husband, as we barely get to see each other during the day over the children’s antics when he gets home from work. If I’m in revision mode on a completed draft, I might clock in an hour of editing on the completed draft on some evenings. Weekends are sacred family time!
The rest of the days I dedicate to my studies (completing a BA Communications Science degree), my crit partners’ works, and my editing job. Blogging and networking I tackle every day.
Now if I’m on a deadline, I might shove some stuff aside (yes, the poor hubby too, sadly) to complete the writing. Nothing is really written in stone, as life happens. But the discipline needs to be there, otherwise there’s no way you’d get anything done even if you’re serious about your writing.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Chocolate cake. Any type, but preferably black forest cake with lots of cream! It’s my reward for a job well done, for completing a project, and it’s my booster when things seem down and drab or when the kids are intent on driving me insane.
If you didn’t write, what would you do instead?
Well, I’m pursuing a degree in communications science. My specialization in economic and management sciences basically means I’m eligible to work as a corporate communications person or in fields such as public relations and marketing. It always seemed odd to me (yeah, I know what I’m about to say!) that for someone who is pretty much shy and self-effacing among people, I chose such a people-oriented degree. Recently for one of my final study modules, I had to place myself in the shoes of a PR consultant and work with an organization to create an integrated communications & PR campaign for them from scratch. To my surprise, I loved doing it. It was as if I were a different person in those shoes, a sort of Jekyll-and-Mrs-Hyde moment!
So if I didn’t write, I guess I’d be working in PR and communications. I did do a stint in the corporate world a few years back, but the back-stabbing, biatch-ness, one-upmanship and I didn’t really agree. I’m really glad I’m getting to pursue my dream of writing.
What books have most influenced your life?
Barbara Cartland’s books and Mills and Boon romances, because through them I discovered that one could put stories of feel-good romance out there and people would enjoy them.
Danielle Steele’s and Barbara Taylor Bradford’s early women’s fictions, because romance could be so much more when it showed the journey of strong and indomitable, spirited heroines.
Jane Austen’s whole collection of works, because she showed society and life and people with all their quirks, foibles, and simple and oftentimes funny reality in such a light and unpretentious way.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, because he wrote an epic story about normal people in a time of trouble and tension, amid a plot that showcased the societal and political upheaval and turmoil of a whole nation, and for how he still, amidst all the detail, managed to create memorable characters who live with you long, long after you close the book. It was the book that opened my eyes as to how I could attempt to bring together characters, culture, and country together under the spotlight of romance.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I cannot say I really have one writer as mentor for how I write. I prefer to think storytellers have influenced and showed me the way. I say storytellers because there aren’t just novelists in there for me. A novelist, a cinematographer, a script writer – all tell the audience a story, albeit via a different medium.
Indo-Briton director Gurinder Chadha ranks high on my list of influences. This is the woman who brought culture to the broad audience with a pop culture twist and did it brilliantly through a YA story - Bend it like Beckham. Any young girl knows what Jes, the heroine, is going through. Yet Jes is Indian. Indian culture is portrayed in much of its complexity in this movie, yet it is also done in a way that a non-Indian will completely understand the premise and storyline. Another one where Ms. Chadha manages this stroke of Indian-to-mainstream flow is the movie Bride and Prejudice.
Mira Nair is another director who finds the right balance between culture and mainstream, yet still infuses Indian-ness with all its deep and churning issues in a way that any audience can pick up the story and nod in understanding. Case in point – Monsoon Wedding.
In the world of writing, I saw such strokes of culture v/s mainstream balance in works by author Shobhan Bantwal. Her stories deal with profoundly Indian issues, some very disturbing like the plight of the girl-child in India (plight that happens in other traditionalist cultures too however), in the book The Forbidden Daughter. Yet, Ms. Bantwal conveys her shocking and distressing themes in a tapestry where they are woven in with hope and human resilience.
On a lighter note, Woody Allen always makes me laugh with his light-yet-deep stories featuring a cast of unbelievable-yet-unforgettable characters.
All of these people have shown me a path that I can blaze with my writing, and I only hope I can do their message and ideology justice.
Once again, thanks bunches to Tabitha for letting me ‘talk’ with her readers today. I know, lol, it’s one sided so far but drop me a line or a comment and I will definitely engage in the discussion with you.
Zee Monodee Bio
Author of stories about love, life, relationships... in a place of culture
Zee is an author who grew up on a fence - on one side there was modernity and the global world, on the other there was culture and traditions. Putting up with the culture for half of her life, one day she decided she'd stand tall on her wall and dip toes every now and then into both sides of her non-conventional upbringing.
From this resolution spanned a world of adaptation and learning to live on said wall. The realization also came that many other young women of the world were on their own fence.
This particular position became her favorite when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of writing - her heroines all sit 'on a fence', whether cultural or societal, in today's world or in times past.
Hailing from the multicultural island of Mauritius, Zee has been writing for close to a decade and has had 3 novels published so far. After a stint in the publishing industry, on the 'other side of the fence' as an editor, her goal today is to pen wholesome, fulfilling stories and help fellow authors, whether as critique partner or as freelance editor.
Find her on the web:
Facebook & Goodreads: Zee Monodee
Follow her on Twitter @ZeeMonodee
It was great talking with you Zee. Its nice to pick another writer's brain and see how we are wired. LOL! We are all so different in our thoughts and how we write.